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CT juvenile lawyerWhen a young person is caught damaging property, it can too often signify that something is wrong at home, or at school. However, vandalism is still a crime in Connecticut, and very often, juvenile charges may be brought in order to teach the young person a lesson. Criminal mischief, as Connecticut law refers to vandalism, can remain on your child’s record and cause them problems in the future. Contacting an attorney is a crucial step to deal with these charges.

Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief in Connecticut is defined as causing any kind of physical damage to another person’s property - including, but not limited to vandalism. The more serious degrees require the intent to cause damage, while third and fourth-degree criminal mischief do not, and the actual damage can be as minor as a small scratch or as large as an all-consuming fire. There are several different reasons why these types of offenses happen for both juveniles and adults, including domestic disputes, pranks, or simply out of malice.

A defendant under the age of 18 may be charged either as a juvenile or as an adult. If you are charged as an adult, the degree of the charge will depend on the value of whatever property was damaged. First-degree criminal mischief is most often the charge when the damaged property is worth more than $1,500, while if the property is worth between $250 and $1,499, the charge will be in the second degree. The penalty for first-degree criminal mischief is a sentence of between one and 5 years in prison, plus fines of up to $5,000, while a second-degree conviction will result in a sentence of one year and $2,000 in fines.

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CTdefense lawyerSome young people make bad choices and wind up with a criminal record, which can, in turn, cause them serious problems later in life. However, in Connecticut, it is often possible for juveniles to have their criminal records expunged, meaning that all (or most) of the offenses will be erased as if they had never existed. That said, not every juvenile record is eligible for expungement or sealing, and it is important that you be able to understand the options that you and your child may face.

Three Routes Through The Legal System

Whether or not your child’s record can be expunged will largely depend on how the offense or offenses were disposed of by the Connecticut legal system. Your child will be assessed under one of three categories in the legal system, depending on the offense they have committed. They may have their case adjudicated in juvenile court, where they will be referred to as a juvenile offender; they may have their case removed to adult court and receive special “youthful offender” protections, or they can, if the offense is deemed serious enough, be tried as an adult, and have to navigate the court system as any other adult would.

Each of these three categories can lead to a different outcome in terms of having one’s record expunged. A juvenile offender is not technically convicted of a crime; rather, they are adjudicated delinquent, and unless they commit further crimes requiring the supervision of the juvenile justice system (generally the Superior Court or the Department of Children and Family Services), those delinquencies can be erased automatically after two years. Juveniles are generally seen to merit the most second chances.

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CT defense attorneyIn many communities, vandalism and minor property crimes, referred to as criminal mischief in Connecticut, are essentially considered a rite of passage for young men and women. However, law enforcement can and does take these offenses very seriously, especially if the amount of property damage is significant. If your child has been arrested for criminal mischief, you need to engage an attorney who understands the nature of both Connecticut’s juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

Different Levels of Severity

Connecticut criminal mischief laws are designed to encompass a variety of crimes designed to damage property. The state statute covers not only classic property damage and vandalism, but also intentionally causing an interruption of services such as electricity and otherwise interfering with equipment or property belonging to a utility. Like with many different crimes in Connecticut, there are different degrees of criminal mischief, and the charge will depend on the level of damage caused by your child.

In adult court, the consequences for criminal mischief can vary from 3 months in jail up to 5 years, with fines ranging between $500 and $2,000. Intent is a major issue - you cannot ‘accidentally’ commit vandalism or criminal mischief. One may accidentally cause property damage, but if the damage is accidental, then by definition, no crime has been committed. Essentially, if the prosecution cannot establish that you had intent to cause the damage, they have little to no case.

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CT defense attorneyMost of the time, when juveniles commit crimes, they are judged in juvenile court, which tends to be more focused on rehabilitation than punishment. However, some crimes are too severe to be handled in the juvenile system, and the law allows for these young offenders to be tried in adult criminal court. If this is happening to your child, you need to be aware of their rights and your options going forward.

Charging as an Adult Is for Serious Crimes

Most crimes committed by a juvenile are considered to be serious, but not serious enough to merit a life-changing criminal conviction. Thus, most juveniles who are arrested for crimes in Connecticut will have their case handled in juvenile court, which focuses on rehabilitating young offenders and trying to help them understand the potential consequences of their actions. If a juvenile is judged to be delinquent, they can be assigned a probationary period, pretrial detention, or another non-judicial sentence if you have no prior criminal record.

Juvenile offenses can be anything from criminal mischief to possession of controlled substances, but there are other crimes that must be classified more severely. Connecticut law lists a host of specific felonies that are referred to as SJOs (serious juvenile offenses), which by law can be tried in the adult criminal court system. Examples include, but are not limited to:

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CT defense lawyerMany parents are not aware that until their children become adults, they remain responsible for their children’s actions. This can often come as an unwelcome surprise to parents who are surprised out of the blue by police at their door or by bills they did not expect. If you have been advised you may be liable due to your children’s actions, you need to consult an attorney who understands these cases so you can ensure both you and your child’s rights are protected.

Property Damage and Injury

The relevant Connecticut statute is fairly straightforward about the types of offenses for which a parent can incur liability. The key phrase is that a parent is liable when their child “willfully or maliciously” causes damage to any property or injury to any person. It is important to keep in mind that ‘intentional’ has to mean ‘without just cause,’ rather than simply someone choosing to voluntarily act. For example, if a child chooses to act in a way that is almost guaranteed to injure someone, it does not necessarily matter if they had no intention to injure anyone - they still acted in that way.

One specific offense for which parents are often held liable is auto theft by a minor child, especially if they cause damage to the vehicle. In auto theft cases, both parents and minors are often held jointly liable, to ensure that any financial damages are dealt with while the minor child is appropriately handled by the legal system. This is very often the ethos in these types of cases - looking out for the rights of juvenile defendants who may need guidance more than punishment, while still ensuring that injured parties are made whole.

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